Center for Educational Innovation

Academic Affairs and Provost

Converting Your Course for ALC

Not every class needs all the technology available in this classroom. But for courses where students can show their work via the computers or even teach part of the classes themselves, this is a great environment for collaborative and participatory teaching and learning. When converting a course, consider what types of information can be illustrated via technologies in classroom. Build in opportunities for students to lead the discussion using the technologies in the classroom.
— Bernadette Longo, U of MN OIT Faculty Fellow

Using the space and technology effectively will require changes in your course, and you probably won't get it right the first time. Often it is not an easy, seamless conversion to teach effectively in an ALC. It takes time, support, and experience to truly consider your curriculum and how to redesign it to effectively teach and maximize student learning in an ALC. Creating and preparing course material (lectures and in-class activities) for the semester in advance will make the transition to this teaching style less stressful. Take advantage of the University's resources by working with teaching and technology consultants and/or using online resources and emerging evidence as to how student's learn.

I think if I had two more iterations, by the time I had tweaked the approach I would be making pretty much optimal use of the smart room and [the space] probably would matter [to the student learning outcomes].
— Longtime U of M Instructor

Course Planning

Rather than starting with the material that you want to cover during the semester, begin planning your course with your desired outcomes in mind.

Key Questions to Ask

  1. What do I want my students to know and be able to do as a result of this class?
  2. What are the assignments that would allow me to see that my students have achieved the outcome?
  3. What do I have to do in and out of class to prepare students to achieve the goals?
  4. How can I use the space and technology to help achieve learning objectives?

Certainly what I think is the most important thing about spaces… is that the space has to be amenable to your pedagogies if your pedagogies are going to be as effective as they can be.
— Longtime U of M Instructor

Planning Activities

…the time spent in the small discussion groups is really time truly spent on bringing up and correcting misconceptions--applying problems and principles to real-life, problem-solving resolutions.
— Longtime U of M Instructor

Because methodology behind the ALC is grounded in problem-based, collaborative learning, it is crucial to plan in-class activities that effectively take advantage of ALC space and technology. The space itself shifts class dynamics. As one instructor explained: "The round tables—the fact that they are looking at each other, instantly changes their relationship with each other." It also affects their relationship with the instructor and the instructor's role, which becomes more like a facilitator.

Even with the most careful planning, it is not always obvious in advance whether an activity will work the way that you had hoped; they can be difficult to design properly. Finding a balance between the length of an activity for a potentially complex concept and achieving learning outcomes can be challenging. A number of factors affect what is the most appropriate length of an activity. The length of the activity should be proportional to the length of the class itself. In general, this teaching style is better suited to longer classes. Longer activities or ones that require interaction between teams (e.g., commenting on others' solutions) will also be more successful in a class with more instructors or TAs or other kinds of infrastructure support.

Characteristics of proven activities in an ALC:

  1. Support the lecture (and vice versa!)
  2. Can be completed quickly
  3. Provide detailed written instructions with time limits clearly indicated
  4. Require students to work together and be accountable to each other (i.e., cannot be completed by an individual)
  5. Do not have a single correct answer
  6. Able to be broken down so that students can work on pieces and then integrate them
  7. Require students to take different perspectives or come up with alternative approaches
  8. Take slower students into account in estimating length of time
  9. Technologies used enhance the activity rather than complicating it or adding no value

Getting Help

If you are teaching a class with multiple sections, collaborating with the other instructors on planning can help make your life easier and improve the course itself. Whether you are teaching with others or not, there are lots of places to turn for help at the departmental, collegiate, and University levels.

  1. Office of Classroom Management
  2. OIT's Academic Technology Support Services
  3. Center for Educational Innovation Consultation Services
  4. Center for Educational Innovation’s Course Design Tutorial

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